The Boston Port Bill

With the infatuation which had all along marked the acts of Parliament and the ministry, new measures of coercion were now adopted, calculated to increase the irritation of the colonists. Exasperated by the opposition to the sale of tea in America, and in particular by its destruction at Boston, the ministry determined on more stringent measures, and selected this town as the culprit to be disciplined. A bill was hastily passed, suspending the trade and closing the harbor of Boston. It was followed by another bill destroying the representative government of Massachusetts, by declaring that the provincial council should be appointed by the crown, that the royal governor should appoint and remove all important executive officers, and that no town meeting should be held without written permission from the governor.

Other stringent measures were passed, despite the warning protest of an old member of the House of Commons: "If there ever was a nation running headlong to its ruin, it is this." The tidings of the passage of these bills produced universal indignation in America. Philadelphia made a liberal contribution in aid of the poorer inhabitants of Boston who might be injured by the operation of the Port Bill. In Virginia a day of fasting and prayer was ordered, and Jefferson published an indignant protest. Strong feeling was exhibited in all the other provinces.

On the day when the operation of the Boston Port Bill was appointed to commence (June 1, 1774) all the commercial business of the capital of Massachusetts was concluded at noon, and the harbor of this flourishing town was closed, till the gathering storm of the Revolution was to reopen it. At Williamsburg, in Virginia, the day was devoutly consecrated to the religious exercises recommended by the Assembly. At Philadelphia it was solemnized by a great majority of the population with every testimonial of public grief; all the inhabitants, except the Quakers, shut up their houses; and after divine service a deep and ominous stillness reigned in the city. In other parts of America it was also observed as a day of mourning; and the sentiments thus widely awakened were kept alive and exasperated by the distress to which the inhabitants of Boston were reduced by the continued operation of the Port Bill, and by the fortitude with which they endured it. The rents of the landholders in and around Boston now ceased or were greatly diminished; all the wealth vested in warehouses and wharves was rendered unproductive; from the merchants was wrested the commerce they had reared, and the means alike of providing for their families and paying their debts; the artificers employed in the numerous crafts nourished by an extensive commerce shared the general hardship; and a great majority of that class of the community who earned daily bread by their daily labor were deprived of the means of support. But, animated still by that enduring and dauntless spirit of freedom which had been the parent principle of the New England communities, the inhabitants of Boston sustained the presence of this calamity with inflexible fortitude. Their virtue was cheered by the sympathy, and their sufferings were mitigated by the generosity, of the sister colonies. In all the American States contributions were made for their relief. Corporate bodies, town meetings, and provincial conventions, from all quarters, transmitted to them letters and addresses, applauding their conduct, and exhorting them to perseverance.

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